Pubdate: Wed, 07 Aug 2013
Source: Burlington Free Press (VT)
Copyright: 2013 Burlington Free Press
Author: Daniel Lawrence Gordon
Note: Daniel Lawrence Gordon lives in Burlington.


In the 1920's, Americans learned the dangers of alcohol prohibition. 
It created a surge in crime as organized gangs fought for control of 
the underground liquor distribution and ordinary persons who just 
wanted a drink were targeted as criminals by the state. So why in 
2013 are we still making the same mistake with cannabis?

In the 2012 general election, 70 percent of Burlington voters said 
"yes" to the question of "Shall the people of Burlington support the 
legalization, regulation, and taxation of all cannabis and hemp 
products?" Legalization clearly has public support and it also makes 
economic sense -taxation of cannabis would raise vast amounts of 
revenue for the state of Vermont.

The states of Washington and Colorado have already passed statewide 
cannabis legalization efforts. Washington estimates it can generate 
up to $2 billion in additional revenue from cannabis taxation over 
five years, while Colorado estimates it can generate up to an 
additional $115 million over five years.

Vermont House Rep. Susan Davis said, "Regulating marijuana like 
alcohol and allowing the production of industrial hemp would create 
hundreds of new, legal jobs and generate business for a variety of 
other Vermont industries."

Legalization of cannabis would also shift control of the cannabis 
market from underground cartels and gangs to regulated and taxed 
Vermont businesses. Unlike street dealers, Vermont businesses are 
regulated and held accountable for the quality of their products. 
This is the same sensible way we deal with alcohol and tobacco.

Like alcohol prohibition, cannabis prohibition does not eliminate the 
use of the product and simply steers all of the profits to the 
underground market. Rep. Davis rightfully said, "Given the fact that 
marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, it is time we have it 
produced and sold in a legitimate, regulated market."

Like tobacco and alcohol, a legal and regulated outlet for marijuana 
also makes it harder for underage minors to obtain the product. 
Street dealers don't care if they sell to minors, regulated businesses do.

Cannabis legalization would also free up police resources and funding 
for tackling more serious crime, instead of consensual adult 
behavior. The State of California was able to save $1 billion in law 
enforcement expenses between the years 1976 and 1985 just by 
decriminalizing cannabis.

Prohibition of cannabis also gives police an unjust pretense for 
targeting minorities. The General Assembly of the State of Vermont 
found that despite similar usage rates, African American Vermonters 
were over four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis 
possession than their white counterparts.

Legalizing cannabis is also important for health concerns. Whether 
marijuana is legal or not people will use it. Legalization allows for 
greater control over the quality and safety of the product, unlike in 
an illicit underground market. Legalization would also open up more 
resources for research into cannabis related health issues, which 
could then be treated as a medical problem instead of a criminal one.

Legalization can also end the legal uncertainties and social stigmas 
associated with medical marijuana patients. Marijuana offers 
legitimate medical benefits for those suffering from chemotherapy or 
glaucoma, and criminalization of cannabis shuts down most research 
avenues for exploring these benefits.

Finally, prohibition of cannabis also denies people the right to have 
control over what they can put into their own bodies, and instead 
wrongly grants that power to the government. The government should 
have no business interfering into one's personal and private life in 
one's own home.

Legalization gives responsible adults the right to make their own 
choices, and if responsible adults can drink liquor and smoke 
cigarettes, they can certainly handle the much more benign marijuana.
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